Château Laurier

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Fairmont Château Laurier
Chateau Laurier from Parliament Hill.jpg
Château Laurier seen from Parliament Hill
General information
Location Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Opening 12 June 1912
Owner Capital Hotel Limited Partnership[1]
Management Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
Technical details
Floor count 11
Design and construction
Architect Bradford Gilbert,
Ross and Macfarlane
Other information
Number of rooms 429
Number of suites 33
Number of restaurants 3

Official name Château Laurier National Historic Site of Canada
Designated 1981
Hotel Château Laurier in Ottawa

The Fairmont Château Laurier is a 201,168-square-meter (660,000 sq ft) hotel with 429 guest rooms in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. It's located near the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, and was designed in the French Gothic Châteauesque style to complement the adjacent Parliament buildings. The hotel is above the Rideau Canal Locks, and overlooks the Ottawa River. The main dining room (now the Laurier Room) overlooks Major’s Hill Park. The reception rooms include the Wedgewood-blue Adam Room, the Laurier Room defined by Roman columns, the Empire-style ballroom, and the Drawing Room featuring cream and gold plaster ornamentation.[2]


Grand Trunk Railway 1909–1923[edit]

Château Laurier was commissioned by Grand Trunk Railway president Charles Melville Hays, and was constructed for $2 million, between 1909 and 1912 in tandem with Ottawa's downtown Union Station (now the Government Conference Centre) across the street. The two buildings were connected by a tunnel.

When the hotel first opened, private rooms cost $2 a night. Of the 350 bedrooms, 155 featured private baths, while another 104 rooms had washstands with hot and cold water connections. Dormitories and common bathrooms were also available, as were rooms for traveling salesmen, equipped with sample tables to display goods. The sub-basement housed a laundry, engineering and electrical departments, and repair shops. A barber shop was added in 1918.[2]

The hotel features original Tiffany stained glass windows, and hand-molded plaster decorations dating back to 1912. The walls were constructed of Indiana limestone. Conical turrets and dormer windows adorn the exterior, and the copper roof now exhibits a dark green patina. The gables are carved with flowers, scrolls and crests, and the lobby floors are constructed of exquisite Belgian marble.[2]

The plans for the hotel initially generated some controversy, as the Château was to be constructed on what was then a portion of Major's Hill Park. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, then the Prime Minister of Canada, helped secure the important site for the construction, and the hotel was eventually named in his honor. Laurier's government was also subsidizing the Grand Trunk Railway's Pacific Line.[3] Further conflict ensued when the original architect, New Yorker Bradford Gilbert, was dismissed due to disagreements with Grand Trunk executives, and the Montreal firm of Ross and Macfarlane was hired to complete the design.[3]

Château Laurier seen from across the Ottawa river

The hotel was to be opened on 26 April 1912, but Hays, who was returning to Canada for the hotel opening, perished aboard the RMS Titanic when it sank on 15 April 1912.[4] A subdued opening ceremony was held on 12 June 1912, with Sir Wilfrid Laurier in attendance.

In August 1914, Major Raymond Brutinel enrolled the first recruits for the Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade at the Château Laurier Hotel in Ottawa, Ontario. A memorial plaque with a circular "bas relief" of Brigadier-General Brutinel bust, and a "bas relief" of machine gunners on Vimy ridge are dedicated to the memory of Brigadier-General R. Brutinel, C.B. C.M.G. D.S.O., who commanded the Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade, and the members of the Canadian Machine Gun Brigade who died on active service and in honor of those who served.[5]

Canadian National Railway 1923–1988[edit]

When the Grand Trunk became part of the Canadian National Railway (CN) in 1923, the Château Laurier became one of CN's most important hotels.[citation needed] In addition to its role as a prestigious hotel, the Château Laurier has also been home to two important Ottawa institutions. From July 1924 to October 2004, the seventh and eighth floors were home to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's local English and French language radio stations.[6] Photographer Yousuf Karsh maintained his studio and residence at the Château Laurier for many years. [7]

In 1929, a $6 million east wing addition by Montreal architect John Archibald and CN’s architect John Schofield added an East Wing and 240 rooms, changing the hotel from an "L" shape into a "U" shape. The hotel also opened a state-of-the-art spa. A spectacular art deco swimming pool with pale pink marble walls, and dark green marble pillars was the spa's centerpiece. Guests could relax on chaises longues situated under warmth-emitting brass lamps.[8]

The lobby led to a convention hall, music room, and gentlemen’s lounge. The ballroom featured a vaulted ceiling, columns, and rich drapes. The ultra-modern kitchen was designed to serve up to 5,000 people. The Jasper Tea Room designed by Edwin Holgate in 1929, featured Pacific Coast aboriginal art, columns carved into totem poles surrounding a dance floor, and lamps decorated with motifs of bears, eagles and crows.[9]

From 1929 through1991, the Canadian Grill was a softly lit, dark-paneled, below-ground restaurant where diners ate the specialty—roast prime rib of beef au jus—and danced to live music.[2]

For years, the hotel thrived, playing host to royalty, heads of state, political figures, celebrities and members of Canada's elite. R.B. Bennett, a Canadian lawyer, businessman, politician and philanthropist, lived in a suite in the hotel during his term as Canadian prime minister, from 1930 to 1935.[10]

Château Laurier - Copper Roof and Turret detail - Ottawa, Ontario

During the 1960s and 1970s, the construction of numerous competing hotels in the capital, as well as the closure of Union Station, led to a slow decline in the Château's fortunes.

In 1965, the Jasper Lounge, was redecorated into a mock English tavern called the Cock and Lion with oak and old brick walls. The union went to court to protest management's decision to replace waiters with young women in low-cut tops to serve in the new pub, but lost.[2]

In 1981, the hotel was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.[11] The Westin Hotel opened across the street in 1983. A $21-million renovation was undertaken in the 1980s to refurbish and renovate the Château Laurier, however, thus restoring its position as Ottawa's pre-eminent hotel.

During the renovation, a new canopied front entrance was added, the lobby’s dark wood was lightened, and the animal trophies were removed. The fourth floor featured a separate lounge and concierge desk. The barber shop was also removed, and the smoke shop became the Reading Room. The Cock and Lion lounge was replaced with a skylit boutique mall. In 1985, Zoe’s Lounge, named after Sir Wilfrid Laurier's beloved wife, opened in a new atrium.[12]

Canadian Pacific Hotels 1988–1999[edit]

The hotel was operated by Canadian National Hotels until the chain was purchased by Canadian Pacific Hotels in 1988.

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts 1999–[edit]

In 1999, it was renamed the Fairmont Château Laurier after Canadian Pacific Hotels bought the American Fairmont hotel chain and changed its name to Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.[13]

The hotel also got a new look, provided by Wilfrid’s an elegant restaurant on the main level, serving regional Canadian cuisine. Its big windows provide ample light, and views of the Parliament Buildings, the Rideau Canal Locks, and the Ottawa River. The Fairmont Château Laurier contains 11 floors, and stands 37.40 metres (122.7 ft).[14]

Château Laurier seen just after dark

The hotel is just meters away from some of the capital's most important landmarks including Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, the National Gallery of Canada, the Byward Market, the National War Memorial, the U.S. Embassy, and the Rideau Centre. Given its proximity to these buildings and the fact that it has served as a home and meeting place for many notable political figures over the years, the hotel has often been referred to as "the third chamber of Parliament."

The hotel was the inspiration for the "Hotel du Canada" at the Canada (Epcot) pavilion in Orlando, Florida. In 2000, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada chose the building as one of the top 500 buildings produced in Canada during the last millennium.[15]

Coinciding with its 100th anniversary, Fairmont Château Laurier was included amongst other architecturally interesting and historically significant buildings in Doors Open Ottawa, held June 2 and 3, 2012.[16]

See also[edit]

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  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e Cook, Maria (24 May 2012). "An elegant palace, but not just for the city’s elite". The Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Kalman, 28.
  4. ^ "Charles Melville Hays Biography". A&E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  5. ^ Worthington, Peter (6 November 2010). "The forgotten father of mechanized warfare". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  6. ^ "ACCC Relocating to Château Laurier". Colleges and Institutes Canada. Colleges and Institutes Canada. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  7. ^ "9 Karsh portraits to hang in hotel suite named for photographer". CBC News. 17 July 2007. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Hotel History: A Story of Timeless Elegance". Fairmont Château Laurier. Fairmont Hotels. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Château Laurier Hotel Archives, Archive (27 May 2012). "Photos: The Château Laurier on the inside". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  10. ^ Mr. Prime Minister 1867-1964, by Bruce Hutchison, Toronto 1964, Longmans Canada.
  11. ^ Château Laurier National Historic Site of Canada. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Zoe's Lounge". Fairmont Château Laurier. Fairmont Hotels. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  13. ^ "Fairmont Château Laurier". Fairmont Château Laurier. Fairmont Hotels. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "Château Laurier". Emporis. Emporis. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  15. ^ "Château Laurier". Open Buildings. Open Buildings. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  16. ^ Doors Open Ottawa
  • Chisholm, Barbara, ed., Castles of the North: Canada's Grand Hotels, Toronto: Lynx Images, 2001.
  • Fletcher, Katharine. Capital Walks: Walking Tours of Ottawa, Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004.
  • Fleury, K. Maureen. "Haunted Château Laurier Hotel, Ottawa", Jan 8. 2008
  • Kalman, Harold and John Roaf. Exploring Ottawa: An Architectural Guide to the Nation's Capital. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983.
  • Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee of Ottawa, Ottawa: A Guide to Heritage Structures, Ottawa: LACAC, City of Ottawa, 2000.
  • Rankin, Joan E., Meet Me at the Château: A Legacy of Memory, Toronto: Natural Heritage Books, 1990.

Coordinates: 45°25′32.04″N 75°41′42.39″W / 45.4255667°N 75.6951083°W / 45.4255667; -75.6951083